PODCAST: When you shouldn’t trust your gut

Written on Feb 06, 2020

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

It’s some of the most common advice you’ll hear and can apply to almost any situation: go with your gut. But one neuroscientist said this very advice could lead you to disaster.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

“Our gut is not adapted for the modern environment,” said Dr. Gleb Tsipursky. “That's why saying ‘go with your instincts’ is really bad and harmful in the modern business world.”

Tsipursky joined the State of Business podcast’s latest episode to talk more about why going with your gut is bad advice, a topic he covers in his book Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters.

He said our gut reactions were formed when humans were still hunters and foragers, and they adapted that way for survival. Although the business environment might feel like a jungle, you’re no longer checking for a tiger over your shoulder or questioning your safety when a shadow crosses your path.

That fight or flight response, Tsipursky said, is what saved lives before humanity became a modern society, but it doesn’t always make sense in the workplace. It can mean relying on comfortable surroundings and unfavorable reactions.

“’Go with your gut’ makes people feel really good,” he said. “It basically says ‘Do what you feel, do what's in your heart.’”

The issue with making decisions by going with your gut can often mean you don’t go outside of your comfort zone. Making these poor decisions can lead to cognitive biases, Tsipursky said, which are more than 100 types of judgment errors we make as human beings because of how our brain is wired.

Those cognitive biases cover problems like the illusion of superiority, which is the perception that we’re more important than we are, and the omission bias, when we prioritize inaction over action. All these biases influence our decision making, and Tsipursky said its valuable to understand the ones to which you most closely relate.

It feels counterintuitive to go against your intuition, he said, but that’s because you feel comfortable with the things you know you can control. In the decision-making process, in business and in life, it’s critical to focus on the things you can control and let go of the rest.

“You realize nothing outside of you is under your control,” he said. “So, what you can control is how you respond to things and you can invest in positive emotions and have the healthiest response for your goals.”

Listen to the podcast and hear more about what Tsipursky has to say about when people have had good results from going with their gut, the five questions to ask yourself before making critical decisions and more.

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